13/09/2015 3:05 AM AEST

After A Decade Without Executions, Arkansas Sets Dates To Kill 8 Inmates

The first executions are scheduled for Oct. 21.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) this week set lethal injection dates for eight men on death row, for the first executions in the state in nearly a decade.

The state hasn't killed anyone since November 2005 because of a shortage of lethal drugs -- the longest lapse in executions of any Southern state, according to Reuters

An attorney representing all eight sentenced men plans to ask a court to delay the dates, he told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, because of a pending lawsuit asking the state to inform the inmates of the source of the lethal drugs. A state law passed earlier this year blocks Arkansas from disclosing that information. But the attorney, Jeff Rosenzweig, said knowing the drugs' source is important to determine "if it's a legitimate supplier or some fly-by-night operation," according to the Democrat-Gazette.

Arkansas has had trouble obtaining execution drugs, which pharmaceutical companies have largely stopped selling for ethical reasons. In 2011, the state turned over one of the lethal drugs it had obtained from the U.K. to Drug Enforcement Administration agents, because the country had banned exports of the drug. Arkansas had obtained it from an operation running out of the offices of a London driving academy.

The state has also grappled with legal challenges to its death penalty system. But Hutchinson believes the eight men on death row have "exhausted" all of their legal options, he told The Associated Press.

"Quite frankly I would expect continued litigation in it, but it's my understanding that all of the appeals have been exhausted and that there is a finality in the judgment and that is the reason the Attorney General has asked for those dates to be set," he said.

In June, Arkansas purchased three execution drugs for $24,226.40, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported: potassium chloride, vecuronium bromide and midazolam. Midazolam, first used in 2013, was also used during the botched execution of Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett in 2014.

Earlier this year, lawyers for an Oklahoma man on death row also argued before the Supreme Court that because midazolam could not reliably sedate inmates, it violated the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The Court ruled 5-4 to allow use of the drug.

The state has scheduled the first two executions for Oct. 21, even though a review of Lockett's death, which was also scheduled to be the first of a double execution, recommended holding the events seven days apart. Holding a double execution, the review found, caused "extra stress" for staff.

Also on HuffPost:

Photo gallery Famous Death Row Last Meals See Gallery
Polling, News, Analysis
All the latest from the 2020 presidential election from HuffPost reporters in the US and around the world